The Persecution of Muslims in Sri Lanka.

Social Harmony is fundamental for long term, sustainable peace in a country. Particularly in a multi-ethnic, multi religious country likes Sri Lanka. Peaceful co-existence is essential for true and sustainable recovery and development of a country. If you are a Muslim in Sri Lanka today, you are guilty until proven innocent. Organized mob attacks, intimidation, destruction of one’s property and businesses, Racist pronouncements and hate speeches, harassment of Muslims particularly women, in public places, trains and buses has become an accepted norm. Arbitrary arrests are made by the Security forces and if you’re a Muslim, it’s up to you to prove them wrong. If this is not persecution what do you call this inhumane treatment of a minority group by their fellow citizens?

· On May 12th to 14th 2019. Organized mob violence occurred in towns across the North Western province in Sri Lanka. Muslim-owned homes and businesses were attacked and a Muslim businessman was murdered.

(For details see attachment titled )
ORGANIZED MOB ATTACKS AGAINST THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY IN SRI LANKA MAY 2019.

· Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka found that: There appeared to be no preventive measures taken even though the Muslims had called the police a few hours prior to the incident, seeking protection

· Police authorities say, they have made a number of arrests for the attacks on Muslims. Some of them are politicians or far-right activists who have been implicated in instigating anti-Muslim violence in recent years. Those arrested over mob violence have been booked under penal code and bailed.

· There seems to be discriminatory approach to law enforcement. While the book is thrown at Muslims, those arrested over mob violence are booked under penal code and bailed and the Monks are totally exempt and enjoy special immunity under Emergency Regulations.

· As of June 4th. 2019. At least 2,300 people had been arrested since the Easter Sunday bombings. While most were later released on bail, over 500 remained in custody, according to the police spokesperson. Reason for their arrest and detention are unclear. The army picks people up and hands them over to the police. The police book them without an investigation. ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S8xM2H_S3M0).

· Most of the arrests have been under the PTA. Prevention of Terrorism Act, which allows long-term detention without charge or trial. Another law vulnerable to abuse is the Emergency Regulations, imposed in the aftermath of the bombings and still in force. The detention is arbitrary. The police themselves are unclear what powers they are using. Frivolous reasons given by the authorities for arrests such as keeping money at home, gathering in the playground, a social media post he/she, had shared 5 years back, having Arabic songs in Laptop and so on.

· President Sirisena issued a ban on face coverings. While the authorities said this was necessary to protect national security by allowing ready identification, this decree has contributed to a situation where Muslim women, including those not wearing face covering but wearing head scarf, have been excluded from public places, including government offices, as well as harassed and sometimes arrested and detained.

· A 17-year-old Young Muslim girl went to have her photograph taken for her national identity card. She was wearing a head scarf. She was 8-months pregnant with her first child, and while she was at the studio she was overcome by a moment of nausea and she covered her face with her handkerchief. A customer complained that she had covered her face, and then called the police. She was arrested under the Emergency Regulations and held in custody for over three weeks and finally granted bail.

· A Muslim family of 10 from Kiribathgoda was arrested after a neighbor reported that they had cloth the same color as that used for Buddhist monks robes, apparently suspecting their intentions. The entire family was held for several days, although they explained they sold the fabric. The police released the family to a court after working hours, allegedly to avoid scrutiny.

· A resident of Kolongoda, was arrested for wearing a kaftan decorated with an image of a ship’s wheel, which police mistook for a Buddhist sacred symbol, the Dharma Chakra. She suffered degrading treatment in custody.

· The country’s leadership have failed to give a strong and consistent message that incitement of communal hatred against any community is unconstitutional and will not be tolerated. The law prohibiting such conduct should be strictly enforced. Their political maneuverings and their association with prominent Buddhist Prelates identified with extremist views, have violated the constitution and further undermined public confidence in the administration, Judiciary and ‘The government’s commitment to provide security to all citizens of Sri Lanka.

(For details see attachment titled update 1).
SRI LANKAN LEADERSHIP IN A STATE OF ABJECT PARALYSIS AND APATHY.

· The Security apparatus, the judiciary and the public administration and sadly, prejudiced and politically motivated local media fueling racism, the supposed last bastion of freedom in a democracy with false statements and claims. Elements of extremist Buddhist monks in cahoots with a few bankrupt politicians deliberately manipulating the emotions of the Sinhala layman stirring up hatred against the Muslims.

· Recently the Secretary to Ministry of Public Administration issued a circular as to what women are allowed to wear in public buildings, requiring all women to wear a sari or osariya (Kandyan style sari). Although this is not a tradition common to all Sri Lankans. Men meanwhile required to wear shirt and trousers. This rule applies to all staff and visitors to government offices. This is arbitrary and is in violation of equal protection guaranteed by the Constitution. This is a shameful display of racial bias

· The Chairman of the Wennappuwa Pradeshiya Sabha in the North western province issued an order prohibiting Muslims from trading in the local produce market, claiming that this was necessary to maintain a peaceful atmosphere.

· Ven. Warakagoda Sri Gnanarathana Thero. Chief Prelate of the Maha Sangha; (Asgiriya chapter). The highest Buddhist citadel, considered as one of the most influential and foremost authority of the Sinhala Buddhist community in Sri Lanka delivered a nationally televised speech.

(For details see attachment titled update 2).
Sri Lankan “Buddhism” Flies in the face of the teachings of “Dhamma”

· He propagated widespread but baseless claims that Muslim restaurants are seeking to suppress the Sinhalese Buddhist birthrate by putting sterilization medicine in their food. Not to eat in Muslim owned restaurants and those who ate from these places will not have children in future. He said, some female devotees said that these traitors should be stoned to death.

· The case of Gynecologist Dr. Shafi. He was accused of sterilizing 4,000 women in a newspaper and a few days later it became 8000 and subsequently arrested under the pretext of a different reason. Now it appears the sterilization allegations were a result of personal jealousy and Dr. Shafi has filed a Fundamental Rights (FR) petition in the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka, alleging that the allegations of illegal sterilizations were false.

· Pardoned, Ven. Galabode Atte Gnanasara Thero, a prominent monk who is leader of the Bodu Bala Sena or “Buddhist Power Force” and someone who has long been implicated in inciting anti-Muslim violence. Gnanasara showed his support for Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thero a monk and Member of Parliament who went on a “fast unto death” hunger strike demanding the resignation of a Muslim Cabinet minister and two Provincial Governors. Amid large demonstrations in support of the demand, Gnanasara Thero threatened that there would be mayhem nationwide if the ministers did not resign by noon the next day, remarks that were widely interpreted as a veiled threat of mob violence while the Emergency Regulations are ‘in force’.And demands free reign for Buddhist monks to ‘mould’ the local Muslim culture the way they want.

SUMMARY

The rise and rapid spread of militant and radical Buddhist clergy in Sri Lanka is a dark force that not only threatens peace and stability in the Island Nation but also disparages and insults the precepts and teachings of the Dhamma. Further, this extremism which is a menace to both Buddhism and the peaceful co-existence of all races and faiths in Sri Lanka has triggered the ugly eruption of a latent strain of hatred and intolerance towards minorities by the larger Sinhalese populace and has manifested in a frenzied zeal of irrational anger, hatred and injustice towards Muslims and their religion. Sadly, this whole affair has been further fueled by fake news, false accusations and totally unjust actions by elements of the main stream media and the security forces which are tainted with hate and bigotry.

If the Government is unable to arrest this virulent strain of extremism, it can only result in an eventual marginalization of Sri Lanka as a failed nation in the Global arena and the decline of the country as a destination of beauty, culture and hospitality to one stained by ugliness, primitiveness and animosity.

ATTACHMENT: REPORTS.

HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF SRI LANKA.
LETTER TO INSPECTOR GENERAL OF POLICE. (IGP)

HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF SRI LANKA.
LETTER TO SECRETARY MINISTRY OF PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORT.
AUTHORITIES SHOULD ACT AGAINST BUDDHIST NATIONALISTS.

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC STATEMENT.
SRI LANKA: RESPECT HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE AFTERMATH OF EASTER ATTACKS.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA- Department of State
SRI LANKA INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM REPORT.

MINORITY RIGHTS GROUP INTERNATIONAL.
ISLAMAPHOBIA AND ATTACKS ON MUSLIMS ON THE RISE IN SRI LANKA.